Archive for the 'Quilting' Category

Paralysis of Analysis

Actually, a lack thereof.


This quilt had a deadline and my main goal while making it was to not get bogged down over-think everything. I didn’t plan it out ahead of time, I didn’t shop for fabric and I didn’t let myself think too long about any design decisions. I think my design intuition works just fine like this, my analytical side really just gets in the way. I don’t really enjoy planning out projects, I am usually itching to just get started, but some aspect of my neurosis feels like I have to think through the project before I start so I make sure to do it in an efficient way. I have been known to get so tied up in the planning of projects that I never actually start them.

Paralysis of Analysis is a phrase my dad has been repeating over and over the past year. It seems that he has finally discovered internet forums (in a very 1998 style) and is having a blast posting photos of his car creations for other people to comment on. It is also not something from which he suffers. In fact when we do projects together I will be drawing out plans and calculating distances while he already has a drill or saw in hand. Clearly there are merits to both approaches and some sort of middle ground is probably a good place to be. Since I seem to suffer mostly for over thinking and I have to work a little harder to just jump in I wanted to focus on not getting tied up in the planning.



I made this quilt for a new baby of some good friends who just moved away to Europe. I used fabric entirely from my stash making it quite nostalgic for me. I know that it won’t mean the same thing for baby Amaya to see my parent’s waterbed sheets from 30 years ago, but I’m sure she will form her own attachments to the colors and patterns.



Pattern Details:
I based this on “Flock of Triangles” from the Denyse Schmidt quilt, but the color layout is obviously quite different. I looked at a lot of zig-zag colored quilts like this, but what I ended up making was somewhere in-between.
It measures 39″ by 58″
The fabric is all from my stash, mostly cotton but a few old sheets that are probably cotton-poly blend.
The batting is organic cotton-bamboo.
I machine quilted it in a zig-zag pattern using a walking foot attachment on my Singer 301.





Vintage Singer(s)




I’m adding my 2 cents to the great sewing machine debate. Here is my response to the Sewing Machine Meme from Sew Mama Sew.

What brand and model do you have?
I have two machines, both 1950′s Singers. The first is a mocha colored Singer 301 and the second is a black featherweight (221). The 301 weighs in at 16lbs and the featherweight weighs in at 11lbs. The 301 has the same bobbin case as the featherweight but uses a slant-shank instead of a low shank. It is often called the “big-sister” of the featherweight and mine came in a portable case that looks like an old suitcase.



How long have you had it?
I have had the 301 for 4 years and the featherweight for 2 years.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
I recieved the 301 for free from a woman on craigslist (see below). Vintage machines don’t have very regular pricing, but you could probably find a 301 for between $100 and $200. You may find one for much less.

I purchased the featherweight from craigslist for $100 but they more typically cost $200-$400.



What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
I sew anything and everything. I have made quilts, clothes, bags, curtians, pillows – you name it. In addition to sewing light-weight cotton and machine quilting I have sewn canvas, heavy vinyl, seatbelt webbing, bike innertube, and sailcloth on both machines. They are troopers.



How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
I sew at least a few times a month and sometimes every day. I ask a lot from my machines as far as sewing heavy duty and unusual materials but they don’t show much wear. Both of them had clearly been used by previous owners but are still going strong.



Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
I love both of my machines but they do drive me crazy occasionally (see below).



What features does your machine have that work well for you?
My machines only do straight stitch (both forward and backward). I have external accessories for zig-zag stitches, buttonholes and a walking foot. Both machines came with a variety of feet, I have only used the zipper foot and rolled-hem foot regularly. The featherweight is not large enough to fit a bed-sized quilt for machine quilting, but the 301 is.



Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
Sometimes the tension can be disagreeable. I will get frustrated and stop for the day and often when I come back later and try again everything works fine. I also have problems with skipping stitches on the 301. I have tried to troubleshoot why it skips stitches (changing needles, matching thread and needle, checking bobbin tension) but tends to be rather mysterious.



Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!
I posted a want-ad on craigslist for a Singer 301 and was contacted by a woman who had two and gave me one. Thats right, a really nice woman I met on craigslist GAVE me the machine in return for me working to “save the earth from the ill effects of humanity” (which is really what I do already, right?).

I had always wanted a featherweight. I have a nostalgic attachment to the machine I learned to sew on – my mom’s featherweight was her 16th birthday present. My featherweight was another craigslist find – the machine was not listed as a featherweight but I recognized it from the photo and drove down to adopt it from the son of the original owner. His mom ended up calling me later to give me an additional box of accessories she found. I was happy to get a machine that had seen a lot of use but was still in great working order. I have put plenty of hours on it since then as well!



Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
If you have a little patience and a love for vintage machinery I highly recommend getting one of these two machines. They are simple enough to understand and troubleshoot. I don’t know much about other vintage models, but these two both sew an excellent looking straight stitch. They use standard shank styles so you can buy new feet if necessary and featherweights are dearly loved by the quilting community so there are reproduction replacement parts. Along the way I picked up a second 301 that does not run and I’ve been keeping it stored away for spare parts when I need them. A vintage machine is not for everyone though, you have to love the quirks and personality. They sure do look cute sitting on your sewing table though!



What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
I would consider strongly what it is you want to sew and what your temperament is in relation to machinery. Do you need to use a lot of different stitches? Do you want to machine quilt large things? Do you like knowing how your machines work and tinkering with them when things aren’t quite right or do you prefer to treat it like a black box? Knowing some of these answers ahead of time will save you some frustration later on.



Do you have a dream machine?
I had always wanted a featherweight but now I have one! The next machine I want is an industrial machine so I can sew even more ridiculous materials. My apartment can’t handle that now, but someday!

finie 1 (quilt)




We managed to finish the wedding quilt for n’s brother in time to take it across the country with us at Christmas (only 2.5 months after the wedding itself!). I spent an entire day working on it in December, first sewing the blocks together to make the quilt top, piecing the back together, and binding it together. It took another couple of hours to do the machine quilting and sew the binding on with the machine before we were ready to pack it (in a carry-on!) to bring with us. We finished the hand sewing of the binding in MD and I embroidered a patch with the names of the bride and groom and their wedding date.



I hung the quilt top in my window while I was trying to find sufficient light for photographs. It reminds me of stained glass and makes me want to sew pieced curtains someday.



The back. It is made mostly of a gray blue (delft blue kona cotton to be exact) with one pieced section. The light was not agreeing with me that day, it made me miss our old apartment.



Almost finished, nighttime shot. You can see the machine quilting here, I did straight lines again. I found it much easier doing the machine quilting this time around. I don’t know if it was because I used a different batting, but it was substantially easier. I thought about doing squares in each of the blocks, but I was under time constraints and I had done the lines before so I decided to stick with what I know. I think for the next quilt I would like to try free motion quilting.



My mediocre attempts at embroidery.



Nick helps with sewing the binding to the back.



All done! Cato approves.

I feel so relieved having this done!

Just to remind you about the details, pattern is a modified version of “Drunk Love Two-Tone” from the Denyse Schmidt Quilts book. We did 6 by 7 blocks with a small (3″) border of green on two sides. See the full progress here and all of the photos here.

coming together




Remember that quilt I was planning a while back? Yeah, I forgot about it too… Back when we found out they were getting married N and I decided to sew a wedding quilt for his brother and his wife. I got as far as cutting out the pieces before the wedding took place, but work and sewing wallets and bags took precedence so I haven’t touched it since September. I left the rest of the block piecing to n while I worked on other things. I won’t say he was diligent, but he did eventually get through them and the quilt squares are all finished.

Last night I laid them all out on the floor. There is a bit of a tighter fit in our apartment now (compared to the last time I did this) but I made enough space to lay out the design.



I didn’t follow the pattern I made on the computer when I was originally planning the quilt (or even look at it), but just having the constraints of distributing color and block type around made the layout similar to the original design:



N took things a step further and wrote a computer program to search for the optimal quilt layout based on edge color, center color, block type and highlight color. With 42 blocks there are 1×10^51 combinations possible. His program was still searching, but we took the best result so far and laid out the design.



Since the colors are fairly well distributed within the blocks, all of the desings look similar to me. I haven’t picked one yet, but since I picked up all of the blocks off the floor (If I don’t, the cat makes a mess of it) when I put them back down again I will surely make a new pattern. Who knows, maybe after another day of optimizing N’s program will give us the best result of all!

p.s.
Last weekend, while visiting the grand opening of the A Verb For Keeping Warm Workshop, I met some folks who suggested I take my bags over to a gallery space nearby. I did, and now there are a few bags and wallets for sale (in public!) should anyone happen to stumble upon them. The gallery is called blankspace and carries lots of cute handmade items, many of which I recognized from other local etsy sellers. I hope it goes well, but I’m not getting too excited this time.

the next quilt



I bought this fabric in July in preparation for the next quilt we are going to make. I mentioned earlier that we were searching for pattern ideas to make a quilt for N’s brother for his wedding — we finally settled on a modified version of “Drunk Love Two-Tone” from the Denyse Schmidt Quilts book. Instead of two colors we are going with 3 (two blues and a green) and some patterned/colored highlights.



Making this quilt with more than two colors has really complicated things. Since the pieces have to be cut individually I had to plan out ahead of time how many of each color I would need. I laid the quilt pattern out in Adobe Illustrator (image above) to get a good balance of the three colors and then made spreadsheets to keep track of what had been cut. Cutting pieces seemed to take forever but we have *mostly* finished (I still need to cut the highlights) and I am finally on to the sewing.








Can you see it? There is a pile of sewn pieces on my desk and a pile of cut pieces on my work table. I’ve done a fair amount of crafting this summer but I haven’t written much about it. I think I can attribute this largely due to the lack of good lighting in my apartment. With N’s new job and long commute our evenings are more condensed and progress on the quilt primarily happens after 9pm (which doesn’t help the lighting situation either).




Even in the dim evening lighting (and less than perfect focus) I still love my desk. I can’t get over how cute the sewing machine is. Apparently other people agree with me, they put the same machine on the cover of ReadyMade for the August/September issue! It is working like a champ too which is good because my singer 301 is skipping stitches. I don’t know if I need to find someone to take a look at it but all of my attempts to modify tension controls and change needles and thread have failed to solve the problem. I’m not sure what we are going to do when we get to quilting everything together because there is no way the whole quilt is going to pass under the arm of my tiny featherweight! Does anyone have thoughts or suggestions for my ailing machine?

Thinking about quilts

It is hot today. Not soul-sucking humid and dirty New York City hot, but unseasonaly and uncomfortably hot. The National Weather Service has the official condition listed as “Hot” with a red picture of a sun. I am hiding in my cave-like apartment and the cat is sleeping in the darkest place he can find. I went outside to water my plants (poor things) in spite of the fact that we are in a drought and under water rationing. And yet I am sitting here thinking about quilts.

The last thing I want to do right now is turn on an iron or sit with a quilt in my lap sewing, but N’s brother is getting married in the fall and we have been planning to make them a quilt as a wedding gift. The quilt we made last summer was a rare opportunity where N wanted to make something crafty together and the couple seemed to really appreciate receiving a handmade gift of such a scale. The wedding is in October and while that is not quite around the corner yet I have a feeling summer is going to be over before I blink my eyes so I need to get moving on the project. Here are some thoughts I’m having:




1. Run and Fall, 2. amy butler doing turning 20, plus some, 3. Orange / Yellow Joel Dewberry Quilt: Front, 4. conran quilt – part of top, 5. coin quilt – top finished!, 6. sprout quilt mockup, 7. belle quilt – quilt top, 8. IMG_6008, 9. quilt front, 10. Amy Butler Happy Hour quilt, 11. Orange & Brown Quilt, 12. 19th Century Sampler, 13. Flying Geese Quilt, 14. Queen Size Love Bead Quilt Top, 15. orange, yellow, and green baby quilt, inspired by DS “couldn’t keep it to myself”, 16. finished Ice Pops quilt, 17. Roots, 18. Hop, Skip, Jump Quilt, 19. quilt top, 20. finished brick road quilt, 21. handkerchief corners quilt, 22. Big Zig, 23. what a bunch of squares quilt, 24. red and white Hop Skip and a Jump baby quilt, 25. Zig-Zag Quilt Top, 26. On the big-boy bed, 27. Horizons Quilt Front, 28. quilt, 29. skyline quilt, 30. Run and Fall, 31. Drunk Love 2-tone, 32. On and On, 33. Roots, 34. Coulden’t keep it to myself, 35. Ice Pops Baby Quilt – Front, 36. Completed quilt – Optical Squares

there it is



The wedding quilt: “What a Bunch of Squares” pattern from Denyse Schmidt Quilts with a pieced back. It is machine quilted with unevenly spaced vertical lines and I added an embroidered patch with the names of the recipients and their wedding date. Most of the work was completed in the span of a month (actually, most of it the first week) – check out the progress in blogland and on flickr.

I really like it, and while its a big weight off my shoulders to have it done Im sad to give it away!

spinning away

Im slowly getting better… This is one strand of domestic white top and one of something grey– honestly I dont really know. Im just practicing with all the pieces of roving ive got in my bag. I have also been really enjoying spinning some merino roving dyed by Karrie.

This weekend I received a package in the mail (always exciting) with musk ox fiber my friends found in Alaska while doing field work. So exciting! Its got some plant material in it and smells like animal, but its much cleaner than you might expect to find. The cat is pretty interested in the smell and spent a good 10 min sniffing around after I opened the envelop. Im going to need to find myself some cards that can handle it.

I also have for you today an indication that we have made progress on the wedding quilt

and a furrier version

We have actually finished all of the sewing and just need to snip off the tails of thread hanging out and take some photos before we can deliver it. Winter is coming at some point (its even supposed to rain today) and they might need it!

fall comes early

It was strangely autumn-like last week despite still being September (in my world fall starts the last week in October and turns to winter around the second week in November). I woke up Saturday morning to the sound of actual proper rain. It was a strange feeling which triggered in me a desire to put on sweaters and wool socks and maybe even a Halloween costume. (the weather didnt last long, it was back up to the 70s again today) All the wintry feel got me in the mood for indoor activities, at least for a few days.

I finished machine quilting and sewing binding to the top of the wedding quilt a few weeks ago. Now we are almost done hand sewing the binding to the back. There has been a distinct lack of photos while Ive been working on it as the hours between 9 and midnight dont have very good lighting (funny how that works)

Ive been spinning again (a little). I picked up some wool after abandoning the silk hankie I had been working on and remembered why I thought spinning was fun.


The mead experiment is going well. My dad added a water trap to the bottle to prevent explosions and we tasted our concoction this weekend. I was very skeptical but it was really, truly, not bad. Im excited to see how it turns out in the end.

And speaking of bees, N and I joined my dad for a look inside the hive using his “bee suits” which are really painters coveralls with mosquito head nets and gloves.

The figs and pears at my parents house are out of control this year.

I recommend baking them and serving over ice cream. mmmm

The kittens are out of control too…

Streak has reached a whopping 4lbs and is twice the size of his sister who is just starting to recover from a really terrible cold. He hardly fits in the scale anymore!

The scenery is always nice up there, but notice the dark color in those clouds. Definitely not a summer look.

Its not a bad view from our apartment either, the cat always seems to find something to stare at

And sometimes I do too.

machine quilting away


This is what it looks like with me trying to wrestle a queen sized quilt under my machine at midnight. Surprisingly, its coming out pretty well! Ive never machine quilted anything larger than a pot holder before so keeping the beast under control is my biggest challenge. I thought I would be able to get away with not marking all of the lines on the quilt, but so far that seems very unlikely. The thing is so big and heavy that it steers itself all over the place and I loose track very quickly of where my straight line should go. The chalk clicker and the tailors chalk are definitely my friends…